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China Institute Gallery presents Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985
Zhang Wei, Temple of Heaven 1, 1976, Oil on paperboard, 20.5 x 25 cm (unframed), 42 x 51.5 cm (framed), Collection of the Artist.

NEW YORK, NY.- An exhibition of work by pioneering artists in China from the 1970s and 1980s, on view at China Institute Gallery through December 11, 2011, provides important clues to the development of contemporary Chinese art as we know it today. Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985 offers a unique opportunity in the U.S. to witness the artwork created in China during the critical decade leading up to the Communist Party’s 1985 decision to allow modern artistic practices.

The exhibition focuses on paintings and sculpture from three unofficial groups of artists, the No Names, the Stars, and the Grass Society, which pushed beyond Maoism in the early post-Cultural Revolution era. Each group pursued creatively diverse paths to artistic freedoms under the harsh political strictures and against the accepted aesthetic norms of the time. The work they produced opened the door for the avant-garde movement to emerge in China and paved the way for Chinese artists working today.

Blooming in the Shadows: Unofficial Chinese Art, 1974-1985 asks the question of why—following 35 years of Socialist Realism—this internationally oriented artwork suddenly appeared and how it captured the attention of the global art world. Included in the exhibition are paintings, works on paper, and sculpture, some of which are politically charged and all of which represent a substantial sense of bravery on the part of the artists.

“These young men and women developed outside the mainstream of China’s official art world during a time when all human activity in China was tightly controlled,” write the exhibition co-curators: Kuiyi Shen, Director of the Chinese Studies Program and Professor of Asian Art History, Theory, and Criticism, at the University of California San Diego, and Julia Andrews, Professor of Art History at Ohio State University and a specialist in Chinese painting and modern Chinese art. “Despite rather different approaches to art, they shared a deeply-rooted opposition to the entrenched institutions of propaganda, an idealistic vision, and a passionate desire to express themselves freely.”

Artists included in the exhibition are Ai Weiwei, Chen Jialing, Chen Juyuan, Du Xia, Huang Rui, Jiang Depu, Li Shan, Li Shuang, Liu Shi, Ma Desheng, Ma Kelu, Qiu Deshu, Shi Zhenyu, Tian Shuying, Wang Aihe, Wang Keping, Wei Hai, Yan Li, Zhang Wei, Zheng Zigang, and Zheng Ziyan.

As Stars artist Qu Leilei inscribed on a drawing in 1983, “I grew up in a time when morality ruled, but without principles; right and wrong prevailed, but without standards; and behavior had no rules.”

The exhibition is directed by Willow Hai Chang, Director of China Institute Gallery, and co-curated by Shen and Andrews, who were the curators of the modern section of the landmark China 5000 Years exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

China Institute Gallery | Blooming in the Shadows |  |

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